I’ve been threatened with a metal pole by a tuk-tuk driver in Cambodia, punctured the petrol tank of the rental car in Kyrgyzstan in the middle of no where, spent a delirious few days sick in a bedroom in India with windows that looked out to brick walls, gotten attacked by a monkey in South Africa, hitchhiked for over 38 hours, and I’ve been groped multiple times. It seems that these experiences are as familiar to me as sketchy accommodation is to a broke backpacker. These are my top 10 worst travel experiences from over 3 years of solo traveling.
I take pride on
how much beer I can drink being completely and utterly honest with you guys, which is why I’ve rounded up this list of my top 10 worst travel experiences. These are some of my favorite stories to share when people ask what I’ve been up to, and let’s face it, I’ve never really found myself excitedly talking about that coconut I drank on some island as I chatted to some hot dude… erm, never mind.
It seems that after 3 years of traveling solo I’d get the hang of it, but…. nope. These are my 10 worst travel experiences (a sequel to my 10 biggest fails abroad), plus some embarrassing photos I found on my camera that never made it to social media!
This has to be one of the worst travel experiences I’ve ever had. In October 2016, I embarked on the Mount Everest Base Camp & Three Passes trek with two Aussie dudes and an English dude. As I ascended the first pass – the Kongma La, which took us to 5,550 meters – I started to feel woozy and dizzy. After a group in front of me asked me if I was alright, panic started to set in, and I realized I wasn’t just anxious. I had altitude sickness.
Stupidly enough, I kept ascending to the peak of the pass, where I trembled on the top with blue lips and a headache that felt like a tight leather belt around my forehead.
From there we descended, painfully crossed a glacier which took over 2 hours, and reached Lobuche. To our dismay, nearly every single guesthouse was full. I couldn’t walk straight, couldn’t see, and the world spun beneath my feet, all the while I kept telling myself that this was completely normal and I was going to be totally fine.
That night we slept at a lower altitude than we had slept the previous night, so I knew my illness was not an emergency (if it was at a higher altitude, well… I wouldn’t have finished the trek). We got the last room in the last guesthouse in an Eco Lodge, where I then proceeded to throw up, lie down, stare at the wall which spun like a merry go round, and pass out.
luckily woke up the next morning and felt like I had been reborn.
Lice in Cambodia
I lived in a hippie beach town in Otres, Cambodia for 7 months. A few months in to my hippie beach bum days of no shoes, no showers, and sleepless nights, my scalp started to feel like it was on fire. I couldn’t stop scratching it, and would find myself having to consciously keep my hand off of my head in public to avoid strange stares. I chocked it up to sweat and my lack of showers.
When it started to get worse, I realized I could have lice. I Googled “nits” and found a photo that closely resembled the sticky white ball I had pulled off of a strand of my hair.
It’s when I pulled another one off, and another one, that I realized my head had become a Newly Built Apartment Complex for Lice, Special Offer Expiring Soon!
Before I knew it, I was searching my friend’s hair for signs of lice when I saw a tiny brown creature scurry across her scalp and disappear into the land of the locks.
I smelled like Listerine, olive oil, and apple cider vinegar for three weeks, a personal attempt to fight off the bugs that decided to call my scalp their home.
Bug Stuck in My Ear in Laos
What’s more terrifying than waking up to the feeling of bugs crawling on your skin? The feeling of a bug crawling inside of your ear.
This tiny creature decided to set up camp inside of my ear, set down his Welcome Home door mat, rest his fuzzy feet, sit his scaly bum down on his reclining chair, open up the paper and call it a day.
I woke up in a frenzy at four in the morning with a consistent, and very loud buzzing noise inside of my ear. The bug was flying around, stuck inside. I sprinted to the toilet, called my parents, and poured lavender oil down my ear to try and drown it.
I walked to the hospital the next day drenched in sweat that turned my purple shirt into a hazy gray. After miming “bug” and “ear,” which I still don’t believe they understood (“what in hell is this crazy foreigner saying to us?”), they sprayed a very powerful stream of water into my ear, which released a very large chunk of yellow ear wax… and hopefully the bug too.
Harassment in Morocco
As much as I love Morocco, I couldn’t help but find myself despising Marrakech. The men were persistent, aggressive, and angry. One man followed me across the street and shouted profanities in my face because I refused to eat at his restaurant. Another man grabbed his crotch and thrusted it into the air as he howled with laughter
to mask his tiny insecurities.
After downing an entire bottle of wine during a torrential downpour, I decided that a little rain never hurt nobody. Except when that nobody is my entire wardrobe and electronics.
I walked over an hour through the torrential rain to my guesthouse with floods up to my knees. Once I arrived, they handed me a towel and soup. Their facial expressions read pity, concern, and this girl is an idiot, why the hell didn’t she just wait it out?
Stolen iPhone and Hula Hoop in Vietnam
I was caught in another rainstorm, except this one was with an English guy. I thought dancing and prancing in the rain at 3AM was utterly romantic, until I turned to find my bumbag I left on the stoop of my hostel was missing.
Life: 1 Monica: 0
I found my bag halfway down the street with all of my credit cards but no phone.
My hula hoop was also stolen that same morning from my dorm bed. Needless to say, I will never stay at that hostel again.
Because of the pleasurable adrenaline rush that comes with any piercings and tattoos, I decided it would be a great idea to get 8 ear piercings, 1 nose piercing, and a tattoo within the span of a week in India.
Even writing this now is making me cringe.
After I got my final 4 ear piercings, I took an overnight bus from Rishikesh to Dharamshala in the mountains of India. I had my head out of the window the entire ride through dusty lands and polluted air. When I arrived at my destination 14 hours later, I noticed both of my ears were swollen to the size of an Oompa Loompa ear. They were red, leaking puss, and painful to the touch.
Over the course of the next several days, they swelled so much that I had to go on antibiotics, soak my ears in Himalayan sea salt, and use antibiotic cream and peroxide to clear out the infection. It was a stressful, anxiety fueled week until the swelling started to go down and I could actually sleep at night.
Breaking the Petrol Tank in Kyrgyzstan
I met two Dutch guys at a hostel in Kyrgyzstan who had rented a state of the art car for $15 a day. It barely made it up a slight incline and had a broken exhaust pipe. I decided to tag along on their road trip around the country, which ended up being one of the most hilarious and fun trips of my life.
They drive on the right side of the road in Kyrgyzstan, and the steering wheel of this particular car was also on the right side.
We were in between cities, trying to make it to the next major city before nightfall. The GPS took us through rocky backroads along landslides and rivers. I was driving the car, when suddenly, we heard a loud pop. When we got out to investigate, we saw a large puddle of gasoline underneath the car which was getting bigger by the second. I had driven over a rock that punctured the petrol tank and left a gaping hole.
We had to wait for a selfless passerby to help us. After one van tried to tow us with a seatbelt, which failed, a man drove by and gave us his tow belt.
Thank you, Universe!
We spent the next 24 hours in the only guesthouse in a tiny village nearby as we waited for the owner of the car to bring down a new petrol tank.
Come to think of it, Kyrgyzstan was full of mishaps.
The Metal Pole Threat in Cambodia
My friend’s and I tried to pay our tuk-tuk driver the agreed upon price, which he increased at the last second. He reached under his tuk-tuk, grabbed a metal pole, and proceeded to shake it around as a threat and wave it at us as if he were conducting an orchestra. Luckily I wasn’t alone, and we eventually mitigated the situation and paid him the extra few bucks.
My 17 Hour Adventure from Hell in India
I was in a state called Tripura in India, and wanted to go to the next state over, Mizoram. I couldn’t find any information online on how to get from one capital city to the next, and none of the locals had any clue about how to travel this seemingly popular route. So, I decided to be the first one to figure it out and did it myself.
It took me 17 hours, 3 sumos, 3 taxis, and 1 train. I’m no stranger to long commutes in India, so the time it took wasn’t at all surprising.
What shook me to my core was the lightening storm that struck only a hundred meters away from me while I was traveling in a jeep with cloth flaps for windows. On the next jeep, the driver used the keys of other vehicles and a paperclip to start the ignition of ours. The headlights didn’t work, so once it got dark out, the woman sitting in the front seat used the flashlight of her Nikon flip phone to guide us through winding cliffside mountain roads in pitch black darkness. We almost got hit by a bus.
We’re in this together! I would love to hear about some of your worst travel experiences. Please leave your stories in the comments below!